Eight Times Grief Made Me Feel Ugly, Mean, or Crazy

Society has created this narrative that idealizes the idea of grieving with grace.  You have probably seen it in the movies, in books, and subtly being reinforced when people compliment you on how strong you are and how you are handling things with such poise.  Poise . . . blech, I had a slight gag reflex just typing that.  But as annoying as this narrative is, I do understand why it emerged and persists. It is more comfortable to imagine grief as tidy and poised than ugly and messy and sometimes mean.

It isn’t easy to be open about all the messy stuff if you feel a pressure to only display that strong, graceful grief ideal.  You may feel like your grief should be a single tear running down your strong, poised face as you gaze off into the horizon. In reality, your grief feels more like a botchy, swollen, snotty, red-face over a pint of Ben and Jerry’s next to a growing mountain of dirty laundry.

So, just a little post to remind everyone: grief isn’t always strong, courageous, graceful, or poised.  Grief feelings are often messy, complicated, ugly and sometimes make you feel like you’re a bad person, or like you’re going crazy.  Don’t worry, you’re not a bad person.  You’re probably just a normal person dealing with the sometimes bad thoughts grief creates.

What are some of the most common grief-thoughts we hear that make grievers feel bad, guilty and not like themselves? Keep reading!  Because, like many other things in grief, these are better faced and coped with head on rather than brushed under the carpet.  So bring on the ugly.

Feeling #1: You are jealous of people you love (you might know this as, “I want to be happy that you’re happy, but instead I feel kind of bitter and resentful”.
bitter grief meme

Examples:  You’ve had a miscarriage and now your sister, college roommate, and co-worker are all pregnant.  Your mother/father/son/daughter died. It’s mother’s day/father’s day and everyone is *so* excited to spend it with their mother/father/son/daughter and they just can’t stop posting about it on social media.  Your friend’s daughter is graduating college, something your daughter never got to do.  You want to be happy,  but that bitterness and resentment keeps creeping in.

Feeling #2: You feel entitled, like life owes you something.

Examples: Just about anytime anything bad happens.  You get pulled over for speeding; doesn’t this cop know your husband just died?!?  You get reprimanded at work for being late twelve days in a row.  Uh, hello, your mom died? You bought a scratch off ticket and didn’t win.  You can’t help but think, come on universe, don’t you owe me that $10,000 jackpot for all the crap you’ve put me through??

Feeling #3: You don’t care about anything.

Example: Everything at work, every single day.

Feeling #4: You are having thoughts about suicide.

Examples: It is estimated that almost 4% of Americans have thought of suicide in the last year. When you look at those who have been through a death, especially a suicide death or traumatic death, the number of people who have thoughts  of suicide is even higher.  Unfortunately, many who think of suicide are scared or embarrassed to speak up or seek help.  If you are actively thinking of suicide please call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), call 911 or walk into your local ER.  If you are not actively thinking of suicide, but having generalized despair with thoughts that it will never get better, consider professional support from a therapist and remember: Hope is real. Help is real:

Feeling #5: You are angry.  SO. ANGRY.

Examples: You are angry at the person who died.  You’re are angry at the doctors for failing.  You are angry at your family for how they are handling things.  You are angry at people for asking how you are doing.  You are angry at people for not asking how you are doing.  You are angry at God for taking your loved one.  You are angry at yourself for not being more poised and graceful in your grief.  You get the idea.  We have a whole post about it here.angry gif

Feeling #6: You are drinking or smoking or smoking something else to cope. A lot.

Examples:  You may not have thought of yourself as a person who had a problem with substances, but when your occasional glass of wine turned into a bigger glass of wine turned into a nightly bottle of wine, you may gotten a little worried.  Drinking now and then doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad griever,  but you should read more about this phenomenon here and seek support if you know you need to cut back or are struggling to keep it in check.
grief wine amy schumer jezebel

Feeling #7: Your emotions feel totally out of control.

Examples: You can’t focus on anything. You are snapping at people. You are crying on the regular.  A trigger hits, a total meltdown follows, and you feel pretty sure you’re losing it.  Don’t panic, you’re probably not losing it. There is more to read about this here if you relate.

Feeling #8: You are judging all over other people, even people you care about.judging arrested development giphy

Examples: You’re barely keeping your head above the grief-water and your friends are busy talking to you about house hunting, stress at work and how the dry cleaner lost their favorite coat.  You can’t help but think they have absolutely no idea what is actually important in life.  Yes, your priorities often change after a loss, which isn’t always a bad thing.  But don’t panic, usually this settles out and you will probably be able to listen to friends vent about how hard life has been since the drive-thru Starbucks in their neighborhood closed. Eventually.

Bottom line is this, you think of yourself as a good person, a nice person, a reasonable person.  Then suddenly grief makes you feel crazy, erratic, selfish, judgemental and all sorts of other things that just aren’t you. You don’t want to talk about it because you feel like people would be horrified if they knew just how not strong and not poised and not graceful your grief really is.  But the reality is,  that’s grief.  Facing the ugly thoughts, talking about them, and acknowledging that none of them make you a bad person is important.  Many of these feelings pass on their own, but if they don’t there are lots of ways to get help.  If you want support but are having trouble finding a therapist or grief group in your area, email us and we are happy to point you in the right direction.

We know this list is only a handful of the feelings that can cause shame and embarrassment in grief.  Leave a comment to share others or to tell us what you think about the list.  As always, don’t forget to subscribe to get all our posts right to your inbox.

April 12, 2017

27 responses on "Eight Times Grief Made Me Feel Ugly, Mean, or Crazy"

  1. Why can’t grief be out in the open? Society has come so far accepting or embracing sex outside of marriage, illegitimate babies, homosexuality, breast cancer, yet death and grieving are NOT openly talked, about. It is a private pain you can’t burden your close ones with.
    Yet everyone will face it unlike things listed above. I have felt so alone since my dad died, also have tremendous anger issues. Suicide always wavering in the shadow. Pain lets me forget emotional turmoil.

  2. Thanks for a great article. Let yourself grieve. It’ll happen in phases, in no particular order. You can try to rush it, but that just extends it. It’s also okay to have a little fun, every once in a while, too- Don’t feel guilty for going out of town for a busy weekend of fun where you DON’T focus on your lost loved one. Grieving is exhausting- don’t feel like a bad person for taking a break from it and focusing on YOUR HEALTH sometimes. You deserve to be happy. Work through the feelings of blame, guilt, and being cheated. Try to eventually get to a place where thinking of your loved one puts a smile on your face as you remember a time when they were happy. This process will change you forever. That’s okay. You’re not damaged- you’ve grown. If you’re feeling worthless, try helping out a friend in need, or a stranger. I started giving blood at the Red Cross quarterly when my Dad died. It makes me feel good to know that someone else’s parent or child might live longer, and it just takes an hour of my time, in and out. My friend lost her Dad, and I helped her clean out her father’s house. It made me feel good to help. I’m not feeling guilty- I’m feeling happy that I’ve grown less self-obsessed and that I can take pleasure out of helping others.

  3. YES – can related to half of the eight. For me I would add Feeling #9: Feeling abandoned. Two retired long time colleagues / friends (?) stopped staying in touch. Oh well. Hope both don’t have same experience if their spouses pass before them. Great article.

    • I agree.
      When my baby died right after birth I lost people I thought were my friends. I get that they didn’t know how to deal but neither did I! No one gives us a guidebook or training for that or losing someone so dear! 🙁

      • I’m sorry that people who should be there for you are not ! I understand that people don’t know what to do or say, but to totally abandon you after the death of your baby is really selfish. I’m sorry about your baby. All the best to you.

  4. So accurate. Especially the feeling crazy part. Had I not sought the help of a grief counselor, I never would have known that feeling crazy is often part of grieving. Thank you for writing this.

  5. THANK YOU! Every time I let someone into my sad world looking for comfort they either redirect me away from my sad shitty feelings or outright judge them (my sister called my anger “twisted” after the sudden death of my brother 3 months ago). I don’t want to be told to feel different feelings! I want the permission to feel my current, ugly, uncomfortable feelings!

  6. Great article, as always. I know I’m not the same person I was before I lost my 28 yr old daughter, Laura, 14 months & 6 days ago?. How can we be? I find it hard to really care about anything, though I pretend to. I wonder is this how it will be for the rest of my life? Maybe pretending will bring me back to eventually caring again? Everything is colored by my loss of her. Thank you for these posts!

  7. I hate hearing about my co-workers or my sister’s kids. I have to force myself to listen, look happy and be happy for them. I can’t wait for them to go away. I hate being like this. It’s not who I used to be before my daughter was taken from me.

  8. My had a horrible, traumatic event happen to her in high school. She was the never the same. She was taken from me and I feel robbed. This was 7 years ago and I am still grieving.

  9. I thought this was an excellent article especially for people who don’t see this side of us. I related to a lot of these.

  10. I was angry at Mohammed Atta, the actual person who killed him. He never knew him and never even knew he KILLED him. He didn’t know ANY of the people he killed but did it anyway. It was so important to kill total strangers.
    It doesn’t matter that he killed himself within one second (while it took Eric and hundreds of their other victims at least 10 MINutes to die,) I was still angry at Mohammed Atta and became even more incensed after finding out he had a Master’s degree in Urban Planning. All his sisters were doctors (with Ph.D’s) and his dad was a lawyer. He wasn’t a “young impressionable terrorist.”
    Neither was Osama bin Laden, whom I was also angry at even though he sat from afar and watched everything happen. Like Charles Manson, another apparent waste of human skin.
    I haven’t been able to forgive them even for myself, as people claim of forgiveness. That you’re doing it for yourself. I don’t let the anger stop me from doing things but I have a hard time ‘forgiving’ someone who killed people they don’t know and don’t even know who they murdered in the first place. How do you forgive someone committing an act that random and that evil? That it doesn’t matter who they kill and they’ll go to their grave not knowing just as long as they kill total strangers?
    I have great difficulty doing it. I’m not that emotionally in tune with those that did it.
    That’s one of the ugly ways I feel.

    • Vicki, I have read all of your comments here and on Facebook since I found this website last year. You express yourself so well, and each time I read a comment from you my heart breaks. I could never imagine losing a loved one, especially a spouse, in such a horrific and public way…having to watch the murder over and over again…. I appreciate all of your comments as it reminds me that 9/11 was such a personal attack on all family and friends left behind and not just an attack on our country. You are the first and only person I’ve ever heard from who experienced the horror of that terrible day personally. Thank you for always being so open and honest with your feelings. Many hugs to you as you continue on this difficult journey of grief~

      • I don’t think my Reply button is working. Every single time I try to reply it sends me to the bottom of the page.
        I’ve never been able to watch repeated footage of the towers falling. Especially not the North Tower, until 2 days ago when I was watching a movie called Flight 93. My friend’s husband died on that one. He said the Lord’s Prayer before they tried to take back the plane, asking for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, and then dying in the crash 5 minutes later.
        I have no idea how what happened 5 minutes later was “God’s Will.” He asked for God’s Will to be done on earth and died in a terrorist act. I don’t understand it at all.
        The whole incident has made my “Faith” almost nonexistent. That’s another ugly thing that has happened to me, and one that most people refuse to tolerate. I left church because I’ve been unable to “trust God even when you don’t like what’s happening.”

        • I can feel your pain coming through your words and my heart truly hurts for you. Though we’ve never met you’ve been on my mind this week with September 11 approaching. Again, I can’t even imagine…and your friend’s husband too…. I totally get your questioning God’s will and feeling so angry at/with Him. My faith has certainly dwindled, and sometimes I feel like I’m barely clinging to it. I’ve also been unable to pray since losing my mom 1 1/2 years ago. I’m saddened to hear that others aren’t able to tolerate your lack of faith. I haven’t shared those feelings with my family or friends because I fear the same thing. This is the time when we need the most support! I’m glad you use this forum to share your feelings and hope it helps in your healing process and will allow you to find some peace. You and your friend will be on my mind and in my heart this weekend. The sickening and horrific things that happened that day hold more significance for me because of you. Many hugs to you Vicki ~ ❤️

    • No words Vicki, I’m so sorry for your loss. Hugs.

    • Vicki, Ive read many of your posts. I just wanted to send some hugs your way today.

  11. My momma was found dead in her home on Aug.15, 2014…
    She was dead 3-5 days before she was found… I dont even know what day she died on…
    Aug. 15 was put as her death date… I feel so guilty for not being there for her… My momma had cancer when I was 5 years old & I was told she would die then… I had her another 45 years… Im Very Greatful for the extra years but sometimes I think it would bave been easier losing her as a small child… I would have lost my momma… but U see she was my best friend growing up… so as a adult…
    I lost much more than just a mom… I have lost part of me… she taught me to be strong person & everything I need to know in my life except how to live without her

  12. I never thought of what all I was feeling since my moms death was probably, in fact, all related to my inability to keep grieving when and if I needed to. I kept thinking that it would end or it would get easier, and no one could tell me how or when, ideas I felt that if I had I could process everything better. Thank you for this article!!

    • I feel the same way after my Mom’s death. So angry when people tell me I should be grateful for all the years I had her, I don’t care! She was my best friend and she’s gone. I never let on to them, just nod and smile, and yes I feel crazy!

      • My mom died almost three years ago, she was my best friend as well. I have heard it all from ” oh, she lived a long life” to ” you should be grateful for all the years that you had with her” and “not everyone gets that kind of a relationship with their mother, be grateful “. I, like you don’t care because these are ‘canned remarks’ and really don’t mean anything, so yeah just nod and smile and say ” I’m fine” because that’s what they want to hear…..

        PS when my mom first died I really though I was going crazy, its a horrible feeling.

  13. My daughter passed 5 years ago, as well. Newly married, no babies. I’ll never be a grandma.
    A coworker always complains in the mist negative ways about how awful it is that her daughter and grandaughter live in her house.
    What would I give to have that problem! I smile through gritted teeth an tears.

    • You should tell her that you would love to have that problem. People tend to magnify their insignificant problems until they experience something truly devastating like the death of a loved one. In the past three years, I’ve lost a sister, my mother, and a beloved uncle. That has completely readjusted my thinking about what matters, and what does not.

  14. Best thing I have read about grief! Thank you!

  15. Exactly how I feel …a bubbling idiot that is a crying and going crazy after losing my daughter 5yrs ago my mom this past Dec and my grandpa this past April…it’s just not fair

    • As a child, I was taught to hush, no one wants to see you cry. Be strong, close it off. Thinking about it makes me want to scream. It is so wrong to not acknowledge the pain. Face whatever the bad is and own it. The pain never goes away, you don’t get over it, but you can learn to not let it consume the good of today. Remember you can always take it out later to cry, worry, share, or just kick it in the butt.

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